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Bill Graham on stage

Bill Graham

  • Year:
  • Inducted by:
    John Fogerty & Carlos Santana
  • Category:
    Ahmet Ertegun Award
Inductee Bill Graham

Hall of Fame Essay


Jeff Tamarkin

Sunday afternoon, November 3, 1991, was a great day for a free concert in Golden Gate Park with the Grateful Dead, Santana, Joan Baez, John Fogerty and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was a classic San Francisco party with a 300,000-plus crowd, staged — of course — by Bill Graham Presents.

But Bill Graham himself was not there to orchestrate the proceedings with the clockwork precision and fiery intensity of a great conductor. Along with his companion Melissa Gold and pilot Steve Kahn, he had died just over a week earlier, on October 25, when their helicopter crashed into an electrical tower. Bill Graham was 60 years old.

“Perhaps the most appropriate comment on who he was and what he left behind is that his operation, in five days, could put together a concert for 300,000 people with good sound, in total safety and without incident,” said Dennis McNally, publicist for the Grateful Dead. “And a show in which the last act, the Grateful Dead, went on stage and off on time, to the minute.”

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Program Cover 1992
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John Fogerty Inducting Bill Graham into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

He was the one that kept the chaos from caving in on itself.

John Fogerty

Photography: Kevin Mazur, WireImage

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